Time for a new deal?

Involuntary under-employment, the bitter price of austerity; Involuntary migration, the bitter fruit of concetrating decent jobs in small areas.

Neither globalization nor electricfied fences can fix this. It is delusional to believe that Britain or America can prosper sustainably when neighbouring nations are in a crisis.

Subtlety and leadership we cant expect from Trump and May. This is a great series of short video op-eds from BBC Newsnight.

Brexit and the economy

There are plenty of people who think the current state of the UK economy is a cause for celebration.  Lots of numbers up including employment.

This belies the uncertainty ahead,  and while the UK Pound continues to be at an effective 20% discount to the US Dollar,  resources,  people,  products and services in the UK are effectively cheap.

While this is likely to continue,  those celebrating it as a result inside the UK should think again. In so much as individuals and business in the UK can acquire all the raw materials they need for manufacturing and business in the UK,  it would be great. Sadly,  apart from personal service,  there are few to no products in the UK made entirely in the UK from UK Raw material.

Exceptions are of course energy, oil,  gas, wind,  solar.  Add to that nuclear power,  and outside of the labor,  technology requirements, the UK is expanding.  Add to this government endorsed push for increased fracking,  often overriding local wishes and you have one sector that is somewhat protected.

The rest economy though,  doesn’t look so good. Anything bought overseas,  finished goods,  imported food, and raw materials will increase in price overcome coming months and years until the cable(UKP/USD)  resets to something like the $1.50 mark.

FYI. Most futures contracts and supply contracts sources from overseas are priced in USD,  even if they don’t involve US companies or US resources.

So,  what do the currency experts say? The following is the XE Market Analysis for December 30th 2016.

Not so happy new year.

Sterling has been trading with a heavy tone in the final week of 2016 trading, making a two-month low versus the dollar, a seven-week nadir against the euro and a one-month low versus the yen. The pound has now more than reversed the gains seen from early November, when the BoE adopted a neutral policy bias, through to early/mid December. The pound remains over 17% down versus the dollar since the Brexit vote in late June, and by some 12% in the case against the euro. BoE MPC member McCafferty last week warned that rising inflation and slowing global growth would hit the supply side of the economy in 2017, and there is a general view that UK growth will be sub-optimal over the next year as Brexit-related uncertainties drag on. Cable support is at 1.2200, while initial resistance is at 1.2297-1.2300, which encompasses the year-end holiday-season highs, ahead of 1.2344-50. We anticipate a return to levels around 1.2100.

Everything wrong with the US Financial System in one man

I’ve been avoiding blogging during the election cycle to stay away from turning my blog into another pile of steaming bile.

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Image from occupy.com

The more I learn about Strumpf(any coincidence to John Olivers #makdonalddrumpfagain purely coincidental), the former CEO of Wells Fargo, the more he becomes the poster boy for everything wrong with the “too big to fail” banks.

The head of any organization sets the strategy, and the tone of the implementation of the organizations strategy. Bad ones do only one, or neither. Strumpf seems to be in the later category based on his testimonial to a House panel on the recent Wells Fargo creation of unwanted accounts, charges etc. When a major corporation has to fire over 5,000 lower level employees, the is no way the CEO wasn’t responsible for the culture that allowed this to happen.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, this morning I read Kathy Kristofs article about Strumpfs stock sale, prior to announcement of the settlement over the illegal activities. While reading this it’s worth making a mental note of the numbers and sheer scale. Remember that ordinary bank customers were charged around $2.4-million in charges related accounts they hadn’t asked for. Apart from this at least having the appearance of insider dealing/trading it reveals the absurd and clearly unjustified amounts of money in the system.

Stumpf sold nearly 3 million Wells Fargo shares in 2016, which is almost 10 times the 351,991 shares he sold the previous year, according to SEC filings. His profit on the 2016 sales amounted to $65.4 million.

Strumpf must be investigated for this, and an example made of him. Otherwise, the country and it’s leaders are sending the same message to the financial industry titans, as they would be sending to their organizations, bending and breaking the rules is OK.

For more on Strumpf, Nomi Prins has a list of his “crimes” and failings while CEO.

Shared, Co-operative banking

2897D64F00000578-3077773-image-m-7_1431445606983[1]I’m still mystified over banking here in the USA, some 20-years after leaving the industry in 1986. Arcane rules; differences from State to State; duplication, overlap and the too-big-to-fail banks. I’ve complained here before.

My current frustration comes from trying to maintain two different credit union accounts. One in Texas with Amplify FCU (the ex-IBM Employee credit union) and another in Colorado, Elevations FCU. Elevations web and mobile apps are far better than those from Amplify. But both seem to be “hand-tied” by rules that were credited back in the 1980’s.

Today’s frustration is summarised in these tweets.

This, after trying to move $1,000 online from an account at Amplify, to another Amplify account, only to be told that Texas laws only a minimum of $4,000 to be transferred daily, after you transfer $4,000, you can transfer back $3,000 the same day. Huh ?

Either way, money takes forever to move around, and often comes with a heavy charge. Miss the 2:30pm deadline for transfers in Texas, that’s a different charge if you go overdrawn. Meanwhile, I can transfer money from one bank to another in the UK in less than 15-minutes, no charge. I can also transfer money from a UK Bank to a German Bank within 2-hours, no charge.

Laughing at US Banks

aka too big to do anything useful.

So, most mornings lately, during breakfast, Chase Bank has been running these commercials on TV. Yep, they are selling their bank on the basis of being able to make easy check deposits. Most US Banks and Credit Unions provide some form of ATM check deposit, similar to this…

no-checks-400x506[1]So while most western countries are running from checks as fast as they can, some have even announced the end of checks/cheques as we know them, the US is not only persisting with the check model and clearance process, they are making ATM’s better at accepting checks and spending money to promote it.

Meanwhile, I can login to my UK Bank, and for free, transfer money to my Son in Berlin in a different country, and different currency and it is in his account in about an hour. To send money to people in the UK, it’s even quicker, less than 15-minutes on average. I’ve had the account for nearly 15-years and not had a checkbook for the last 12-years.

The easiest, simplest and by far thecheapest way for a person in the USA to send me money is to write a physical check, take a picture of the check on their cellphone, and email me the picture. I remote deposit it in either of my USA Bank Accounts. Way to go USA.

American Tax Avoidance and Panama

Remember though, as Bloomberg News said back in January, before the “Panama Papers” were known: The World’s Favorite New Tax Haven Is the United States.

Kudos to MSNBC for writing up the story of the (lack of) Americans discovered in the “Panama papers”.

The Wall Street Journal earlier pointed out that 617 intermediary companies that were listed in the papers that operate here in the USA, but no details will be available until sometime in May. So far the only American directly implicated is Marianna Olszewski a financial “pundit” from NY.

article-doc-9n7p3-3x3xJf8qEp7439795a58657c8166-790_636x382[1]As I remarked in my original post about the Panama Paper release, this is no reason for Americans to feel smug. The MSNBC spells out the reasons for that, importantly because for the most part:

  • Delaware, Nevada, along with the U.S. Virgin Islands, are known in particular for loose regulations and low taxes. You can park your money in America behind a dubious corporate facade, without going “offshore”. America rates third behind Switzerland and Hong Kong as a popular tax haven, and far higher than Panama, at 13th. When you here about those massive corporations with billions overseas, it’s not actually sitting in banks in 3rd world countries, it’s often in “tax avoidance” holding companies, who have their cash here in the USA. It’s all bookkeeping entries a rather than overseas.
  • US Tax rates are already super-low, contrary to what you hear from Presidential candidates. Super-rich Americans have less need to seek tax havens because they have less to lose.

Many small and large American and foreign companies help wealthy clients set up offshore shell corporations — that itself is not illegal, as long as the those they set them up for are not trying to hide criminal proceeds or dodge tax obligation.

Remember though, as Bloomberg News said back in January, before the “Panama Papers” were known: The World’s Favorite New Tax Haven Is the United States. Remember, for each dollar a corporation or wealthy individual doesn’t pay, it has to get made up somewhere. That either means someone else pays it, or services get cut.

Fran Hendys offshore blog has good coverage of tax related issues, it’s her specialist subject, where as I just angry more people can’t see what is going on.

Panama Papers, don’t be smug

_89082388_cfoiqttwsaadnoj[1]I woke up early yesterday, after a few minutes decided to read my phone, and there was the blow-up over the “Panama papers”. I read the BBC’s excellent “live” page which in twitter-timeline style was posting news and highlights as they uncovered details.

And then I went back to sleep. There wasn’t anything really new here, it just confirmed what many people already knew, third world dictators, power junkies and desperate wanna-live-forever celebrities were cheating on a massive scale.

Later in the day many of my politically minded friends posted links, articles and critiques on facebook and twitter. Ultimately the leak is a big deal as it takes away on of the key value propositions of this type of activity, secrecy. Without secrecy, the sorts of deals, services and tax avoidance is sort-of-meaningless.

What most ordinary people have overlooked, or turned a blind eye to is that they more than likely benefit from similar schemes. If you’ve used the services of, or bought stuff from IKEA, Pepsi, Starbucks, Microsoft, been to Walt Disney theme park, then you too have benefited or contributed to tax avoidance. Indeed, almost everyone orders from Amazon, and in many cases, doesn’t pay tax that they would have paid had they bought the self same product from a local store.If you bank with Barclays, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, JP Morgan, then yep, same thing.

“The World’s Favorite New Tax Haven Is the United States.” Why? Because even American law firms dedicated to protecting the financial assets of the world’s elite say the US is a perfectly effective tax haven”

What make the Panama papers different, is it gives the tax authorities around the world the chance to go after individuals. Thats much easier and much more interesting than going after these big tax avoiding companies. As always, it’s divide and conquer.

Not doubt entirely coincidentally, when I collected my mail yesterday, I got a full FACTA request/disclosure from my bank, FirstDirect, a subsidiary of HSBC. So, they can make it very difficult for me to maintain a bank account back in the UK, and will directly report to the US Inland Revenue Service, I on the other hand can do nothing about their deliberate tax avoidance, that the UK and US Tax authorities know all about.IMG_20160405_073140